Acupuncture has been used as a treatment modality for horses many thousands of years, as documented in ancient Chinese scripts. This treatment modality is not only used in the treatment of pain, but also medical conditions, for the maintenance of healthy physical function and for constitutional balance, therefore delaying the onset of degenerative processes in the body. Horses are very big animals, when compared to an average sized human. They are very accepting of and even relatively sensitive to the treatment, with their results sometimes seeming quite miraculous.
Every living being has the innate ability to heal because it is, in many ways, a wonderfully compensating biological machine. Acupuncture acts in an almost magical way to restore balance to the body, by activating these inherent mechanisms. This is done via the release of endogenous hormones like serotonin, endorphins, and opioids to name but a few. It also affects the movement and distribution of blood to and from certain places and organs in the body. This is for instance specifically successful in white tissues (like tendons, cartilage, the brain and spinal cord to name but a few) which normally do not have an adequate blood supply.
Today acupuncture is mainly used in horses as an adjunct to management of pain. Together with normal medicine, as well as the correct physical therapy and riding techniques, it can be used to not just increase your horse’s performance ability, but can also assist in delaying the onset of degenerative processes, thereby prolonging your horse’s competitive and healthily active life.
Acupuncture has no known side effects, other than accidental penetration of vital organs, which is the reason why one should only choose to use an appropriately qualified veterinary acupuncturist. Acupuncture is by definition the use of a needles to penetrate a very specifically anatomically located point on the horse’s body. This can be done using normal needles (acupuncture), fluids (aquapuncture), air (pneumopuncture), finger pressure (acupressure) or a technique called moxibustion. In acupuncture the treatment points are chosen from the appropriate Constitutional Points. This is not the same as dry needling, where the Individual Constitution, and 5 Element Theory is not used.
Horses are athletes, and should be treated as such. A top athlete is not just managed on the field, but the equipment they use, the food they eat, and the supplements they take are all fine-tuned modalities to help attain and maintain their peak performance ability. Therefore, managing their training and maintenance should be geared towards a long-term, holistic and balanced approach, with as little as possible side effects. Acupuncture is a very powerful treatment modality in your toolbox, which can and should be used in maintenance of your horse’s health and wellbeing.